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Ireland Fianna Fáil TD says he had to 'gate-crash' National Broadband Plan launch as Government didn't invite him

19:45  20 november  2019
19:45  20 november  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey

Fianna Fáil TD Pat Casey has said he was forced to “gate-crash” the Government’s National Broadband Plan event in his constituency because he wasn’t invited.

The Wicklow TD’s remarks come after a Government source responded to a Fianna Fáil claim that the National Broadband Plan (NBP) announcement amounted to a by-election “PR stunt” by pointing out that Mr Casey was at Tuesday's event.

However, Mr Casey has told Independent.ie that he was not invited to the signing of the NBP contract and only learned of it because he is a director of the community centre where it was held.

He also said that Fine Gael councillors and general election candidates were there, but said he didn’t see any other Opposition politicians at the event.

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At the event were Health Minister Simon Harris, junior agriculture minister Andrew Doyle, and local Fine Gael TDs. Also there was former Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, who is running for the government party in the next general election.

Mr Casey said: “I was not invited to the event. I found out about it through being a director of the Brockagh Resource Centre and a former pupil of St Kevin’s National School.

“This event was happening in my own village and I had no intention of missing it and I literally gate-crashed it.

"When you look at who was invited to it, it was definitely a Fine Gael stunt,” he said.

"And yet this was a Government announcement. That’s where the waters get muddied.”

Richard Bruton wearing a suit and tie reading a book: Big reveal: Minister Richard Bruton at the launch of the National Broadband Plan. Photo: Owen Breslin © Sunday World Big reveal: Minister Richard Bruton at the launch of the National Broadband Plan. Photo: Owen Breslin Mr Casey claimed: “All announcements two weeks out from a by-election will have an impact on how the electorate view things and I think they [Fine Gael] did use this as an opportunity to raise the profile of the party.”

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The Department of Communications did not immediately respond to an Independent.ie request for comment.

Mr Casey’s party colleague, communications spokesman Jack Chambers, last night complained to the Department of Communications about the launch event at Laragh, Co Wicklow.

Mr Chambers wrote to secretary general Mark Griffin, saying he was concerned that there were senior civil servants among those who attended.

“While I accept that there are some who have spent a number of years on this project, their attendance at a PR stunt of this nature was not appropriate,” he said.

“It is clear that these events are being used for party political purposes in the midst of an election campaign.”

A Government source last night said Mr Casey attended the event.

The source responded to criticism of the NBP from Fianna Fáil, claiming that the Opposition party would “leave rural Ireland behind”.

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They also insisted some civil servants need to be present for the signing of contracts of this nature.

Jack Chambers wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Jack Chambers. Picture: Tom Burke Jack Chambers. Picture: Tom Burke Fianna Fáil has criticised the cost and pace of the roll-out of the €3bn NBP.

A government source this evening insisted that Fianna Fáil was "notified in advance" about the NBP event.

They said: "This was a government announcement about the signing of the contract for the National Broadband Plan.

"As is routine under Confidence and Supply Fianna Fáil were notified in advance."

The source said the local Sinn Féin TD John Brady was also notified.

"It is unfortunate Fianna Fáil think the roll-out of rural broadband is a 'stunt'.

"We think it is essential for the survival of rural Ireland," the source added.

They did not elaborate on the nature of the notification that was sent to Fianna Fáil and whether it was an explicit invitation.

Mr Casey insisted he did not personally get an invitation to the event.

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